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Compliance & Conduct

HOUR (The Hopkins Office for Undergraduate Research) fully supports the responsible conduct of research, promoting the highest ethical standards and accountability. There are state and federal regulations, institutional policies and professional codes that must be met.

Ethics in Research

Ethical conduct underlies every aspect of research, from conceiving the question to collecting and analyzing the data, to sharing the results. Johns Hopkins undergraduates are expected to become familiar with their discipline’s ethical standards and to conduct their research activities with the highest level of integrity and commitment to excellence. You are likely to receive information of which you should take particular note about research integrity in concentration courses and as a natural extension of any lab-based research. You are encouraged to ask questions about proper practices and procedures, to be organized and accurate in all of your research activities, to get safety and ethics training early on, and to follow the directions of your faculty mentors and other research staff closely.

Policies Governing Research Involving Humans and Animals 

While all kinds of research, and all aspects of a project, involve ethical dimensions, these dimensions are particularly critical when research involves humans or animals. In order to ensure ethical standards in such research, federal regulations require that such research be reviewed and approved before data-collection can begin. This regulation is strictly enforced and any data obtained without prior approval cannot be used for writing a paper, fulfilling coursework, or any other purpose. This stipulation – that approval be obtained prior to collection of data – applies not only to clinical or laboratory studies, but also to social science and humanities research involving the use of humans or vertebrate animals.

When the research involves vertebrate animals, advance approval must be obtained from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) based at the School of Medicine. Such research, even ‘independent projects’ must be affiliated with the laboratory research of a principal investigator (PI). It is the faculty member, not the undergraduate, who is expected to obtain approval for the any research involving vertebrate animals.

All projects involving human subjects must be presented for HIRB (Homewood Institutional Review Board) approval prior to the start of the project. In many cases, undergraduate students may get a waiver if the work contributes to the data collection effort of a faculty mentor. However, whether or not the project is independent or part of a larger research endeavor, students (and faculty) should ascertain whether the project requires review.

More details follow:

Animal Care and Use

The use of animals in research is highly regulated and raises a number of ethical questions. Johns Hopkins University is committed to upholding the highest ethical standards while considering the care and welfare of all animals in the planning, review and implementation of research involving animals. The JHU Animal Care and Use Committee is responsible for ensuring the ethical conduct of research through its review process.

Most research opportunities involving animals offered to undergraduates have already been submitted by your PI and reviewed by the ACUC. You may be required to compIete specific training before you able to participate in these projects. If you are proposing an independent research project involving animals, please work with your mentor and contact the ACUC at [email protected] with any questions.


JHU has an Institutional Biosafety Committee that reviews registrations for Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules, Pathogens, potential Infectious Agents, Biological Toxins, and Human Clinical Trials that involve the use of these materials as mandated by the National Institutes of Health and/or Johns Hopkins Institutions policies. All investigators using these materials are responsible for registering with the Biosafety Office and describing the research programs and procedures for use. Undergraduate students are covered by the registrations of their principal investigator.

Human Research

If your research includes the involvement of human subjects in any manner, it is important for your activities to be reviewed by the Homewood Institutional Review Board (HIRB). The purpose of the IRB is to ensure that the rights and welfare of participants are fully protected.

If you are proposing an independent project that involves human subjects you must contact the IRB office before you begin the project. For international research, HIRB requests you contact them a minimum of 2 months prior to project start date. Email them at [email protected] or call 410-516-6580. They are happy to answer any questions and guide you through the process.

Intellectual Property Policy

(re: undergraduates, excerpt from the JHU Intellectual Property Policy)

Definition – 

For purposes of the university policy, Intellectual Property is defined as any new and useful process, machine, composition of matter, life form, article of manufacture, software, copyrighted work or tangible property. It includes such things as new or improved devices, circuits, chemical compounds, drugs, genetically engineered biological organisms, data sets, software, musical processes, or unique and innovative uses of existing Inventions. Intellectual Property may or may not be patentable or copyrightable. It is created when something new and useful has been conceived or developed, or when unusual, unexpected, or non-obvious results, obtained with an existing Invention, can be practiced for some useful purpose. Intellectual Property can be created by one or more individuals each of whom, to be an Inventor, must have conceived of an essential element or have contributed substantially to its conceptual development.

Ownership of Intellectual Property – 

The University owns all rights, title, and interest in and to Intellectual Property developed as a result of support either directly from or channeled through the University. By accepting employment OR enrollment in the University, students hereby assign and agree to assign to the university all of their rights, title and interest in and to Intellectual Property developed as a result of University support. In the absence of University support, rights of ownership remain with the inventor.

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